By Michelle Bauman
Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2012 / 06:09 pm (CNA).- A series of events across the country during National Marriage Week from Feb. 7-14 seek to strengthen marriage in the United States and promote its benefits.
"Marriage pays," said Sheila Weber, executive director of National Marriage Week USA, in a video about the event posted online.
Weber pointed to research indicating that marriage contributes to greater wealth and financial stability, as well as greater personal happiness and better health.
"Children raised by both parents perform vastly better in school," she added. "They have far less trouble with the law, less teen pregnancy and less addiction."
According to National Marriage Week USA's website, the initiative is a "collaborative effort" by many diverse groups to "strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a stronger marriage culture, which in turn helps curtail poverty and benefits children."
Each year, it works to publicize the benefits of marriage for individuals, children and society, as well as to promote classes, conferences and events that provide marriage resources.
Weber explained that a drastic decline in marriage has created a severe need for efforts to promote healthy marriages. Today, she said, only 57 percent of adults in America are married, down from 79 percent in 1970.
She added that 40 percent of all children in the U.S. are now born outside of marriage, and taxpayers spend more than $100 billion each year on divorce and unwed childbirth.
The annual event to strengthen and encourage marriage began in the United Kingdom in 1996 and was brought to the United States in 2002.
It is part of an international initiative, in which 16 major countries around the world are participating by working to strengthen marriages within their borders.
Among the week's highlighted activities in the U.S. was a webcast event encouraging couples to take the "Date Night Challenge" by going on three dates in three weeks.
The week featured local initiatives in cities around the country, hosted by various organizations that recognize the importance of marriage for a healthy society.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops participated in National Marriage Week by conducting a contest to submit marriage tips and hosting a "Virtual Marriage Retreat" on Facebook with prayers, reflections and questions for married couples.
The bishops' conference provides resources for both engaged and married couples at www.foryourmarriage.org, a website that offers information on a wide variety of topics, including conflict resolution, finances, communication and parenting.
Members of the United States Congress also applauded the efforts of National Marriage Week on Feb. 7 and acknowledged marriage's significance in society.